For over a decade agile software development practices are considered a key to the productivity of software development teams. IT giants and world leaders in software development are using agile methodologies as part of a DevOps (Development and Operations) approach. DevOps is the mainstream methodology to developing, deploying and releasing high-quality software by teams of developers. The popularity of the DevOps approach is currently reflected on the fact that it is currently extended to cover all aspects of software systems. Prominent examples of such extensions can be founded in the MLOps and DevSecOps methodologies, which enhance DevOps to support Machine Learning and Security applications respectively.
DevOps is largely about using the right tools for all phases of software development, integration and deployment. Specifically, DevOps developers tend to be proficient in a wide range of tools that facilitate teams to implement agile practices. While there is a very large number of DevOps tools, some tools of them are used more frequently than others. In this post, we present seven of them.
DevOps is much about transparent and responsive collaboration between development teams. Jira is one of the most popular collaboration tools for DevOps teams. First and foremost, it facilitates the planning of complex software projects. Specifically, teams use Jira to create user stories and issues associated with their projects. Moreover, Jira enables the agile planning of iterations, including the planning of “Sprints” in Scrum terminology. It also enables project managers and developers to distribute tasks across the members of the software development team. Furthermore, Jira can facilitate the tracking of stories and development tasks. Tracking boosts the prioritization of critical tasks, while providing visibility and transparency on the progress of user stories.
Jira is also useful for the actual release of the product. It facilitates stakeholders to access up-to-date information about the scope and contents of each release. Likewise, the tool improves the performance of teams through enabling them to access visual data about the development tasks, but also to use these data in order to identify and remedy the pale points of the team’s development pipelines.
Nowadays many teams use Slack for their business communications. It is a communication platform that provides conventional IRC (Internet Relay Chat) like functionalities, such as topic-specific chat rooms (i.e. “channels”), private groups, and direct messaging. The Slack platform is therefore a collaboration hub which is much more versatile and much more powerful than e-mail. It facilitates natural collaboration between team members, which resemble face-to-face communications in intelligence, user-friendliness and flexibility. Conversations are segmented in public and private channels, as well as direct messages, rather than being restricted to one-to-one or group chats like how other popular tools operate. Overall, Slack eliminates conventional overstuffed inboxes and distributes messages in dedicated spaces that are conveniently called channels. Based on the channels’ mechanism, Slack facilitates members of DevOps team to follow conversations about specific development threads, while at the same time increasing the productivity of information searches.
DevOps is largely about automating development and deployment. In the development forefront there is a need for automating build processes. Maven is one of the oldest and most popular tools for builds’ automation. It is used to build and manage complex projects and their configurations. Maven was originally developed to support automation of Java projects. Nevertheless, over the years support for other popular languages (e.g., C#, Ruby, Scala) has been added. The operation of Maven relies on the specification and use of a specific configuration file, while is called POM (Project Object Model). Each POM file provides information for handling builds, dependencies and documentation of complex projects.
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) are the main productivity drivers of DevOps. Jenkins is a free and open source automation server for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery tasks. Specifically, the server automates building, testing, deployment, as well as other CI/CD tasks. It helps developers to build and test software projects by setting an automated CI/CD environment. Jenkins integrates very nicely with tools that manage versions and dependencies such as Git and Maven.
Software teams need to be flexible in setting up and deploying applications on a given host. To this end, they leverage the concept of containers, which package and run an application in a loosely isolated environment over a server. Docker is probably the most popular platform for setting up and managing containers. It uses virtualization at the Operating System level in order to package and deliver software within containers. Each container bundles its own software, libraries and configuration files. Furthermore, Docker allows communication between containers. The concept of containers bears similarities to traditional Virtual Machines (VMs). However, they exhibit much better performance than VMs given that they share the host kernel rather than emulating a full operating system. This is one of the main reasons why Docker-based applications exhibit very good performance. However, they are not quite as fast as applications running on the native Operating System.
A great deal of DevOps work involves deployment configurations and application delivery. DevOps does not look only at development tasks. It also caters for high performance, fine-tuned operations. In this context, the Chef tool helps to treat infrastructure as code. Specifically, it provides the so-called “Chef recipes” that describe the configuration of the servers where a software product is deployed. In this way, Chef boosts application delivery and facilitates DevOps developers and administrators’ collaboration. Specifically, it enables them to automatically provision and configures new machines for their DevOps projects. It supports solutions for both small and large scale systems while supporting most of the popular cloud-based platforms that are commonly used in DevOps projects.
Non-trivial DevOps applications use multiple containers and create a need for container-orchestration solutions. Kubernetes is an open source platform for container orchestration. It supports automated application deployment, scaling, and management of container applications. Kubernetes manages containerized workloads and services while supporting declarative configuration and automation of containers’ deployments. Kubernetes is associated with a rapidly growing ecosystem, which includes a wide range of support services and tools. Using Kubernetes, DevOps teams are capable of eliminating several of the manual steps that are involved in the deployment and scaling of complex containerized applications.
There are many more tools for DevOps development. However, the above-listed ones provide a sound basis for understanding and implementing DevOps projects. We strongly recommend that prospective DevOps developments become proficient with these tools, while at the same time investing on how to best combine them in the scope of their development and deployment pipelines. Overall, practicing these tools is one of the best ways to start DevOps on the right foot.
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